Since November is a good month for counting your blessings, I’ve been giving mine a lot of thought. Among the blessings I treasure the most is the godly heritage of my grandparents, Gertrude and Julian Parker Netherland. Grandma passed on when I was about three years old, but she is one of my first memories. She was much loved and regaled for her strong faith and sweet character. Grandpa, on the other hand, died before I was born, but he made his mark on my life all the same.
He was famous in our family for two things: his great faith, and his expertise as a gravestone carver. His children loved to tell the stories of his life, but it was not until I started researching our family tree that I discovered the whole truth of his life and legacy.
Tragedy and pain struck his life over and over again. Having lost both parents by the time he was six, he married quite young. His beautiful young wife died at the tender age of 22, leaving him with a 4 year old and a 6 month old. Six days later the baby died.
Later he met and married my grandmother. Their happy life was marred by the deaths of their first baby and then, later, a four year old child.
But he never became bitter or hard-hearted. So much loss and grief in one man’s life…but he kept his faith, preached the Gospel, and ran his race with patience and love. I wish I could have known him. My prayer is that he is looking down from Heaven above as one of the “great cloud of witnesses” and cheering on his descendents as we run our races. We have his genes…I hope we have his heart, too.
Here’s a little story I wrote about Grandpa June and his days as a lay preacher who followed the call to preach to the poor in the hills of Kentucky. This story was told and re-told at family gatherings through the years.
Now June wasn’t a tall man, but he was stocky. He was a gravestone carver, and used to man handlin’ big ol’ granite stones. He was a devout Baptist man, a lay preacher, who used to take a tent out into the hills and preach to the poor folks there. One day as he was preachin’ the Word, a fellow who had been into his whiskey, came staggerin’ into the meeting, cussin’ and swearin’ and trying to interrupt. He came right up to Grandpa and was about to punch him, when Grandpa June grabbed his arm and twisted him into a hammer lock. He kept right on preachin’, never missin’ a beat, while holding this gent tight as can be. I hear that June sure had the attention of every person in the tent that day. I don’t know how many souls got saved, but I hope they all did! I never got to meet my Grandpa…Julian P. “June” Netherland, but he is my hero…He suffered much loss & tragedy in his lifetime, and never became bitter, but loved and served his Lord ’til his dying day.
Julian Parker Netherland passed away August 7, 1934, from lung disease resulting from breathing so much granite dust as he carved the memorials of so many other people. He was 52 years old. He was laid to rest in his beloved Kentucky.
Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we thank you that you set the solitary in families. You place us into our tribes and with our kindred. But especially, you have adopted us each into the Family of God. Help us to recognise and appreciate our blessings and your plan for our lives. And may we leave a godly legacy behind. In Jesus’ name,
Here’s a link to the “Count Your Blessings” Scavenger Hunt hosted by my friend Christin Ditchfield for November that got me thinking about the many ways God has blessed me.
Enjoy this beautiful song from Amanda Cook: Heroes. I know my Grandpa June knew how to dance upon his disappointments!